I confess that when, on New Year’s Eve, I wrote about my blogging plans for 2021, I had not envisioned that an attempted coup in the USA would happen on January 6th.
To be clear, it was obvious since early December that the far-right around Trump were looking to organise a protest in early January. They were not exactly subtle about their intentions, including their ambition to storm the Capitol. However, I assumed that this was more bluster than anything – that the US security forces would be reading the same things I was and would put in sufficient security so that all that would happen would be a noisy protest outside.
My biggest concern was that the more militant elements of this mob would seek to provoke a response from anti-fascist and anti-racist groups, with the intention of giving Trump an excuse to execute some form of martial law, and do a coup through that way. I was confident they would fail in their attempt to provoke such a reaction.
Well, here we are, four days after the attempted coup. It happened, but not in the way I expected.
In light of the attempted coup, I have decided to try my hand at a series, The American Crisis. My objectives in this series will be to:
Explore the origins and nature of the fascist/rightwing populist movement in the USA.
The likely development of this movement in at least 2021, as a result of the attempted coup.
The likely development of the post-Trump Republican Party (and the internal conflicts shaping this).
The likely development of the post-Trump Democratic Party (and the internal conflicts shaping this).
The opportunity for a revolutionary offensive (noting it might not be a revolution, but the opportunity to advance class positions against the right all the same).
The potential implications of the attempted coup and the ongoing American crisis for Bermuda – and what we, in Bermuda, might do. This includes a look at our own issues of class and race, as well as our constitutional relationship with the UK.
It will take me some time to cover all of these issues. I will seek to first publish a skeleton article hitting my key points, which I will then expand in respective articles
I have taken the name of the series from the work of the same name by my favourite US Founding Father, Thomas Paine.
Additionally, while the US mythos speaks of the 13 colonies that launched the revolutionary war in the first British Empire, a war that ended in their war of independence, there were actually other colonies in the Americas. Bermuda was actually the 14th colony. Only our geography – isolation and small size – and a large British military garrison prevented us being one of the founding States. We have, of course, diverged since. However, we have always remained interlinked with the US. Like Mexico, we are too far from heaven and too close to the USA; in practical terms we remain a British colony formally, but an American colony in reality.
Well, balancing my 9-5 job with the Commission of Inquiry workload rather put a wrench in my plans to post here regularly. Going into 2021, I will have the same challenges, at least in Q1.
Nonetheless, from Q2 on I am hopeful that I’ll be able to post more regularly. Until then, however, I will try my best to post the following:
Weekly Worker – A round up of any union news, local or international (with local implications) and/or a review of relevant legislation.
Municipal News – A weekly review of what’s happening in at least the City of Hamilton, with a particular focus on meetings.
Alternative News – This I’m thinking will be a monthly round-up of news events in Cuba, Romania and Yemen. These are countries that aren’t regularly reported on, so I thought it would be interesting to see what’s happening there, beyond the other global headlines. I chose these three to give a representation of the Americas, Europe and the ‘Middle East’. The plan in Q2 on is to consider adding other countries to represent Africa, Central Asia, South East Asia and East Asia. That might be a bit too ambitious, but that’s the plan.
National RFPs/Consultations – I’ll try to post RFP and public consultation alerts when I see them, on a weekly basis.
I may not be able to manage all of this in Q1, but I’ll try.
Transact proposes to shift 100% of its shares within the Digicel Bermuda structure (Telecommunications Bermuda & West Indies Ltd. – TBWI).
Digicel is proposing to transfer the ownership of Transact from Wireless Holdings Ltd. to TBWI.
There is no sale of any assets or change in beneficial ownership.
This is essentially purely an internal company reorganisation by Digicel. The apparent purpose is to allow Transact to benefit from the 114B license currently held by TBWI. Transact in its current format is 100% owned by non-Bermudians and in order to trade in Bermuda it must have the benefit of a 114B license.
There will be no changes to operations or strategy within Digicel from this move, and Transact will remain ultimately owned and controlled by Denis O’Brien.
The consultation asks 3 questions:
Will this proposed transaction have an effect(s) on competition within Bermuda’s electronic communications sector?
Will this proposed transaction have an effect(s) on the residents of Bermuda with a particular interest in, but not limited to, the provision of electronic communication services in Bermuda?
Will this proposed transaction have an effect on innovation within Bermuda’s electronic communications sector?
The budget for their Electronic Communications section gets a 20% cut, to $2,710,925.
If I’m reading it right, their Electricity section gets a 13% increased budget to $2,482,000.
They appear to be recommending no increases in fees.
It notes their intention to ‘undertake significant Electricity and Electronic Communications sector related projects.’
It is noted that the RA has a total of 22 authorised positions, of which there are 2 vacancies. However, they note they are not actively recruiting for those positions at the moment.
It notes the impact of covid-19 both on the island’s economy but also on changed communication needs. In particular, it states that the RA will invest in some new communications initiatives as a result: (1) Digital Date Analytics to better understand the consumer online experience; and (2) A Consumer Focused Website – basically they will redevelop the RA website.
RFPs for solar procurement are in the works, with 2023 cited as date of commissioning.
Further retail tariff review to establish a 3-year tariff period to be conducted.
The first steps in the next IRP process to be started.
The first phase of a wind pre-feasibility study to be commenced.
Significant Market Power (SMP) Remedy Implementation to be set up by general determination.
Annual market analysis of the electronic communications sector to be conducted.
To encourage competition in the electronic communications sector, the RA will conduct its annual Integrated Communication Operating Licensing process.
The RA will also conduct its ongoing spectrum assignment licensing process.
It notes that the RA board is composed of 5 Commissioners. $396,000 is budgeted for Commissioners pay in 2021-22 (this equals $79,200 per Commissioner).
With 20 filled positions, $3,264,000 is budgeted for salaries (it is not clear if this is inclusive of the 2 vacant positions).
There is a budget for consulting services of $1,184,000 (split between Electric Communications at $435,000 and Electricity at $749,000).
Consulting services for Electric Communications has been reduced by 43% ($328,600) from 2020-21 as they have increased internal capacity.
Operating costs for Electric Communications has decreased by 60% ($239,575) from 2020-21 due to reductions in budgets for litigation and mediation.
The Commissioners salaries (honoraria) per their share from Electronic Communications is reduced by 27% ($72,000) from 2020-21 (but this is under discussion by the current Commissioners).
There is a 194% ($494,000) increase in consulting budget for Electricity for 2021-22 – the reason given is primarily due to projects required to implement the Comprehensive Retail Tariff and the solar procurement process.
There is a decrease of 63% ($203,175) for operating costs for Electricity, due to reduced need for litigation and mediation.
As with the Commissioners honoraria for Electric Communications, they also see a 27% ($72,000) decrease from their share from Electricity.
As noted previously, the Corporation of St. George’s doesn’t have as much information available on its site (or I’m navigating it poorly) compared to the City of Hamilton. Going forward I will look to engage them in advance to see if they wish to provide some more detailed information for these posts.
From what I can tell, there are two meetings scheduled for this week:
The Infrastructure & Property Committee at 3:30pm, Monday, October 12th.
The Finance Committee at 3:30pm, Friday, October 16th.
I am not able to find an agenda for these meetings so I cannot provide any detailed information concerning them.
Also, St. George’s Future Leaders seems to be a standing meeting every Tuesday at 6pm.
There does not seem to be any events scheduled for this coming week. If that changes, I’ll post an update throughout the week.
There is a proposal to rename Princess Street to Earl Cameron Street in honour of the late Earl Cameron.
There is a discussion around rent relief and waiving cost of living increase for Island Tour Center and the Chamber of Commerce.
A discussion about removing double yellow lines from a section of Princess Street and converting them into parking bays.
There is a proposal to rent out 17 Point Pleasant Road (the former marine police building at Barr’s Bay Park); the draft lease has been sent to the potential client, which is listed as Misaki. It is not clear if this is the sushi restaurant on Burnaby.
There is some upcoming roadwork which may impact traffic. Notably, a bump-out at the junction of Union and Dundonald, and also at Seon Place carpark.
Community consultation will be held on the change of use for six parking bays both at Laffan Street and at Washington Street.
An RFP will be prepared, pending planning permission, for restrooms on Victoria Street (I presume this is the ones by the bus terminal).
PR is to be developed concerning upcoming rock cut on Ewing Street.
PR is to be developed concerning upcoming ‘Green Initiative’ project to survey and repair the sewage lines at the Front Street Pump Station.
A survey is to be conducted of bike parking bays outside places of worship to consider making them multi-use on days of worship.
There is a consideration to convert some carparks to all-day carparks (Cavendish, King and Par-la-ville are considerations).
There will be a discussion on allowing individuals to wash cars in city carparks.
I’ve decided to trial doing a weekly round-up of major news events in a handful of countries that generally don’t receive a lot of coverage on our media. Obviously, I can’t cover every country, so I’ve randomly selected the following:
With the Trump regime having reversed the easing of restrictions started under the Obama regime, Cuba has seen increasing economic challenges. The covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these, just as it has in Bermuda and other Caribbean nations that rely on tourism for a substantial portion of their economy.
The main news from Romania this week has been their ongoing struggle to contain covid-19. Like much of Europe, Romania is seeing a second wave and, with daily cases reaching up to 3,000 over the last week. The bulk of these cases are in the capital Bucharest (with almost the double rate compared to the rest of the country), although increases are being observed around the country.
The second wave has prompted the authorities to initiate new restrictions, with Bucharest in particular facing the most extensive restrictions. After only just reopening in September, following almost six months of covid closure, restaurants, cafes, bars, discos, cinemas, theatres and casinos are all to be closed until the covid-19 rate of infection reduces to under 1.5 per 1,000 inhabitants. The current rate in Bucharest is 2.1, compared to the country average of 1.1.
These closures have not been welcomed, with workers from the affected industries organising protests to call for more economic support. Many of the affected businesses are already economically stressed from the six-month long closure, and the workers are concerned that these new restrictions will lead to mass unemployment unless more financial assistance is provided.
In political news, the minority centre-right PNL (National Liberal Party), which came to power through a vote of no confidence a year ago (overthrowing the then governing Social Democratic Party) introduced legislation to reverse the judicial reforms introduced by the previous government.
The situation behind these judicial reforms, and the counter-reforms proposed by the current government, are, in many ways, central to the political discourse in Romania at the moment – and were a key part of the no confidence vote that brought the PNL to power last October. In general, the EU and the PNL argued that the SDP’s judicial reforms risked undermining the independence of the judiciary. The SDP reforms sought to introduce a special tribunal to investigate corruption within the judiciary, but the PNL and the EU considered that as being a tool to exert political pressure.
The PNL’s counter-reforms won’t be debated in parliament until March 2021 however. And parliamentary elections are required this year, so the PNL is gambling on winning a majority to see this legislation through. In last month’s municipal elections, the PNL and it’s center-right ally the USR PLUS, heavily defeated the SDP, and is being seen as indicative of the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The USA has entered into a new military agreement with Romania as they seek to counter the expansion of Russian military power in the Black Sea following their occupation of Crimea. As part of this deal, the Romanians purchased new Patriot surface-to-air missile systems in September, and the USA has increased its troop deployments at their two air force bases located there.
Fighting has resumed around Hodeidah, Yemen’s main port. The city is held by the Houthi, who control much of central and northern Yemen, and is the main port of entry for about 80% of all goods, particularly humanitarian aide. The UN has called for an immediate ceasefire following an upsurge of fighting in the area, which saw numerous civilians killed.
The war in Yemen is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Iran supporting the Houthi, while both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent troops to combat them, currently occupying much of the south and east of Yemen. The war, starting in 2015, has seen at least 100,000 people killed, numerous atrocities (especially from Saudi air raids) and has left Yemen, already the poorest Arab country, with millions suffering from food and medical shortages.
So far there have been 2,045 confirmed cases of covid-19, with 718 active cases and 593 deaths. Of course, the war has made it impossible to properly measure the impact of covid-19 on Yemen to date.
Tonight brings the news that the newly appointed Senator and Minister for Community & Sports, Mr. Commissiong has left the position. It was noted previously that his appointment was controversial, and the dismay over his appointment was showing no sign of abating.
Others are – and will – comment more specifically concerning him elsewhere; my focus here is on what this means for the Cabinet and the Senate. I am interested in the aspects of the role ‘the people’ and social movements will play in our democracy, being as they led the charge on this issue. With a decimated Opposition OBA and a dominant Governing PLP, one imagines social movements and labour unions will play an important role over the next few years.
First however, in Mr. Commissiong’s resignation letter, he cites Section 106 of the Constitution. For those unfamiliar with the Constitution, this sections reads as follows:
106 Resignations 1. Save as otherwise provided in sections 31(1) and 32(2) of this Constitution, any person who is appointed to or to act in any office established by this Constitution may resign from that office by writing under his hand addressed to the person by whom he was appointed.
2. The resignation of any person from any such office (including any seat in either House) by writing under his hand addressed in accordance with this Constitution to any other person shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by that other person.
The Constitution also specifies that at least one of the Cabinet Ministers (and not more than two) must come from the Senate; and that the Government must appoint five senators. Mr. Commissiong’s removal thus means that (i) a new Senator must be appointed by the Premier; and (ii) a new Minister must be appointed from the Senate.
It is important to note that the new Senator to be appointed does not necessarily have to also be the new Minister. This could mean – hypothetically – that due to the particular issues involved in the Commissiong case, that the Premier could reappoint Ms. Lovitta Foggo back to her Ministry, and remove a Ministry from someone else and hand it to one of the Senators. I’ve heard someone on social media suggest just this, with Senator Owen Darrell proposed in the same conversation as a possible Minister for the Cabinet, for example. Of course, any of the other three Senators could also be considered for a Ministry.
It is likely the Premier will be wanting to chose someone who has some previous experience in the House or the Senate. And if that person also has experience as a Minister, all the better. It may be that the Premier only needs an experienced hand in this role for a short period, say six months. That will give the new Senators time to get experience, and allow the Premier to consider if his new Cabinet needs a shuffle or not.
Obvious candidates for the Senate seat would be former MP Michael Scott and former Senator Davida Morris.
As a former Senator, Senate Leader and former Minister, he certainly has the credentials and experience for the role, and, while he did decide to retire, one imagines he might be willing to step into the role, even if for a short period.
Ms. Morris is a former Senator and was a candidate in the last election, as well as being the Secretary General of the PLP. With an eye for addressing criticisms of gender imbalances in politics, she is certainly a possibility.
Of course there are other former PLP MPs, Senators and Ministers that the Premier may consider. Former Premiers Jennifer Smith and Paula Cox, former Ministers Renee Webb and Neletha Butterfield, as well as a host of other former Senators, as well as other members of the PLP Executive, are all possible names to consider.
Ultimately, the above names are pure speculation, albeit with a degree of educated guessing to them.
It is not clear from the Premier’s letter when the new Senator and Minister are to be appointed; however the Premier previously noted that he is convening the first Cabinet meeting of the new Government for this Tuesday, October 13th, so it is quite possible that the appointments will come on Monday afternoon.
Here is a round-up of what’s been happening around the Bermuda unions:
Bermuda Public Services Union
For some reason (I suspect the disruption brought by covid-19) the BPSU has not published it’s quarterly Feedback newsletter since their 2019 Q4 one on December 19th, 2019. Nonetheless, there are some updates on their site worth noting:
When Can I Retire flyer published on October 8th – This flyer provides information for workers about the change of the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 68, and notes who is exempted from this change (basically the uniformed services and teachers).
Extending Employment Beyond Age 68 published on October 8th – This complements the flyer (above) and goes into more detail about the policy change. It provides the background to the change and a short FAQ concerning it.
MOU on Vacation Carryover published on October 9th – This is a copy for workers to be aware of the terms of the MOU agreed between the union concerning a special agreement to carryover vacation days from 2020 into 2021. Due to the disruptions caused by covid-19 workers have not been able to take their vacation time in full and risked losing their vacation days. Basically, it allows for (i) the 60% leave requirement be suspended through 2020; and (ii) the 20 day carry over limit to be suspended through to end of 2021.
The only other thing worth noting here is that on Friday, October 2nd, the BPSU held an urgent meeting of its membership at Victoria Park (on account of covid-19 precautions) to discuss ‘Government’s austerity measures’.
It is perhaps worth noting that the vote to accept the austerity measures in July (which included the premise that the MOU would only come into effect if and when all unions agreed to the terms) was a very close vote, with 54% voting to accept the austerity terms and 46% voting to reject them (as per the numbers given in the RG article cited above).
Bermuda Industrial Union
There does not seem to be any news or updates from the BIU this week. Their last issue of the Worker’s Voice uploaded to their website was in August, and the last event or news posted was for the Annual Labour Day Banquet at the end of August.
The BUT’s members are of course now back in the classroom with the new school year, complete with the stresses of teaching during a pandemic involves. Additionally, the re-elected Government will be launching significant school reforms over the next few years, so the BUT will likely be digesting the challenges ahead.
Electrical Supply Trade Union
The ESTU’s website doesn’t have much on it, and their social media accounts have not been updated recently (their Twitter last in May 2015 and their Facebook page last in November 2018).
Nonetheless, the big news for their members is the sale of BELCO/Ascendant to the Canadian company Algonquin was approved on October 7th. What this means for the ESTU remains to be seen.
Bermuda Entertainment Union
The BEU’s website does not seem to have been updated since 2017, however their Facebook page does seem regularly maintained. In September the BEU was featured in the news concerning their hopes to expand their membership before the end of the year.
I am not seeing anything else from the other unions who seem to be lacking much of an online presence at the moment. I will look to cover more going forward.
Having provide a definition of sexual harassment and some general types of it, the report has an interesting section on ‘Gender Lenses’. Essentially, this section notes that perception of sexual harassment (and/or its severity) is often influenced by gender.
“Men and women exhibit vastly different views of the propriety of sex in the workplace. In general, men and women differ concerning the appropriateness of sexual conduct in the workplace; behaviour considered offensive by women may be viewed as harmless by men.”
This is important to note, especially in the current context that has spurred this conversation about sexual harassment. As most, if not all, of the women affected by this appointment (either having previously experienced sexual harassment, or potentially subject to such) are civil servants (and thus restricted in having a voice as the matter relates to political appointments), only one side of the story is being given – all from men, and thus potentially subject to the gender lens/filter raised in the report. Additionally, many of the social media discussion on this largely seems to reflect this gender bias (with the addition that several male commentators feel that women are weaponising sexual harassment claims).
Both of these are excellent papers and well worth the read for those interested.
Now, the key takeaways from these papers that the report notes are:
In general men and women diverge greatly on what they would consider offensive sexual harassment (in particular being propositoned by the opposite sex).
In general men blame women for sexual harassment, in the form of saying women are responsible for their harassment in the workplace based on their dress or working in a male dominated space, and so on.
That there is a need for awareness training – especially for men – regarding the full definition and scope of sexual harassment.
“Men’s attitude toward sexually harassing activities continues to be more tolerant than women’s.”
“Women are more likely than men to define social-sexual behaviour or events to be sexually harassing or rate such events to be more severe, threatening, unwelcome, serious, or harmful…”
“…there is abundant evidence that women tend to be more sensitive than men to SH [sexual harassment] perceptions and that individuals endorsing traditional masculine gender role orientations or sexist attitudes tend to be less sensitive to SH perceptions…”
There are, of course, plenty additional academic studies that basically find the same thing. In general, men are less likely to perceive their behaviours as sexually harassing than the women who are generally the subject of the harassing. And furthermore, men are more likely to blame the victim.
“As our studies demonstrated, whites mainly recognise old-fashioned racism as reflecting racism. Any of their opinions, beliefs, or actions that work to the detriment of blacks are not seen as prejudice; and since most white Americans either do not hold old-fashioned racist beliefs or they feel guilty about the ones they do hold, whites tend to think racism is a thing of the past. Hence, whites perceive the continuing efforts and demands of blacks as unjustified, while blacks see whites’ resistance to these efforts as tangible proof of racism and hypocrisy, and the cycle of conflict continues.”
There is a clear gender bias or ‘lens’ in perceptions of sexual harassment.
Not covered in the BPSU report, but something which I think is worth at least mentioning here is the matter of internalised sexism. In this, I am referring to women that have internalised sexist attitudes and help enable the perpetuation of such – in this case either dismissing claims of sexual harassment or blaming the victim.
“Defending, justifying, and excusing individual acts of misogyny, mistreatment, and/or abuse, either toward oneself or toward other women.”
“Defending, justifying, and supporting societal, institutional, political, and/or cultural bias and oppression against women (internalized oppression). Blaming women for causing their own victimization.”
This has certainly been on display on some social media conversations concerning the Commissiong controversy, as well as the radio. In this, the women involved have helped support and legitimise the oppression of other women. There are even some women with internalised sexism who will actively seek out sexually harassing behaviour from men, and to that degree dismiss the very real trauma of sexual harassment on other victims.
In some situations, this can be particularly problematic should a woman with such internalised sexism holds a key role of a shop steward in a unionised workplace. This may cause women workers to feel they cannot go to their union for assistance. This is not the case – if you as a worker are in such a situation where you feel your shop steward is compromised, you can and should go directly to the union itself, be it to a Division Vice-President or to the Executive Committee of the union itself.